“Hi. My name is Joe
And I work in a button factory
I’ve got a wife
And one day my boss said to me
He said, “Joe?
…Got a minute?”
He said “Push the button
With your left hand”
It was like being a kid again. The Theatre workshop at the Dragon Café let loose my imagination and opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I was part of a community full of great ideas, all of which were real in that room. Colourful currents of creative juices were flowing, intersecting and mingling within that sacred space. Every suggestion was validated, every feeling acknowledged. I felt safe and uplifted. For that one hour I could be anyone, anywhere with any story.
The interaction induced empathy. For a few minutes, each of our characters felt what it must be like to be in the other one’s shoes. We formed strong connections and had great fun.
I can see why Drama therapy works in schools, prisons, mental health centres, businesses and hospitals. It is an instrument for change, individual and social. It can help us work our way through a problem, discover some truths about ourselves, understand the meaning of images that resonate with us and explore and transcend unhealthy personal patterns of behaviour.
Saagar was a natural mimic and actor. Every time he auditioned, he got a good role. Predictably, he played one of the 3 wise men in his primary school nativity play. Then, he was Badger in Wind in the Willows. His last school play was Of Men and Mice in which he played the character of The Boss. He loved the team aspect of putting a production together. The last play he watched was ‘Book of Mormons’.
“I have opened a door that can never be shut. How will I ever get her to trust me again?”
19 out of 20 people who attempt to end their lives will fail.
These survivors will be at a 37% higher risk of suicide.
Anger, shame, guilt, fear, minimization and avoidance are few of the reactions they evoke.
The taboo associated with the act might make them feel even more isolated. Their families may not know how and where to access support for themselves and their loved one. The ones closest to them may feel drained, stressed, exhausted and let down. The trust between the two might be deeply damaged.
Their relationship might reach an all time low, just when it needs to be solid.
Both need to take responsibility for their own well-being and that of each other.
Once upon a time her life revolved around music. Her days and nights were spent either listening or humming or singing or watching thinking about songs. All her time was infused with music. Her friends would sometimes have to shut her up. She was addicted. Music was her friend in good times and bad. It was a constant and reliable companion. It never let her down. They had a steady relationship.
One day her world turned upside down, inside out and back to front. She couldn’t make any sense of anything anymore. Music didn’t help. It fell by the wayside. Their friendship disappeared. She couldn’t cope with rhythms, notes or lyrics. Melodies brought forth floods of tears. Harmonies took her to painful places. She stayed away. She fiercely guarded her heart strings from melting. She preferred silence. Deep, dense, safe silence.
Serendipity stepped in. A musical friend who knew of her old connection invited her along for an evening of informal singing in a friendly group. She reluctantly agreed. The thought of revisiting Music had fleetingly crossed her mind on New Year’s eve. Her parents and friends had been gently pointing her in that direction. Her love of music was alive but its expression immediately exposed her fragility. Could she risk it?
She decided to go along even though she was filled with self doubt. Would she be able to hold a tune? Would she get the timing right? Would she run out of breath before the end of a line? Would her voice sound okay? After a long estrangement, would Music be her friend again?
On the morning, she meditated, prepared herself physically and mentally, determined to face Music and re-establish their friendship.
She did it.
It wasn’t as difficult as she thought it would be. She went with the flow. Her throat welled up a few times. Her eyes got heavy with moisture. Every now and then she completely lost herself, disappeared. She came away smiling, feeling lighter. She reinstated a new, joyful connection with her old friend, who had been waiting for her all this while.
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Having a couple of daylight hours still left after work is a luxury. This evening I was lucky. I walked aimlessly along the Southbank and ‘The F-word’ exhibition caught my eye. F for Forgiveness. Bold posters with simple, human messages from ordinary people from all over the world, telling stories that transform, offering a dynamic and challenging exploration of forgiveness through real life situations.
There is nothing ordinary about forgiveness. Forgiving others. Forgiving myself. I constantly struggle with it.
One mother said “When I was told that my son had been killed in action, the first words that came out of my mouth were ’Do not take revenge in the name of my son.’ It was a totally instinctive response.”
When Saagar passed away, one of the strongest feelings that came up for me was – no one should have to loose anyone they love to suicide. That was the driving force that kept me alive and goaded me on but forgiveness is a subtle and powerful thing that happens at another level. I am very conscious of the fact that it is something I really need to address but keep putting it off while it keeps gnawing away at me. Perhaps, it is not entirely by co-incidence that I chanced upon this exhibition.
This is a well-known story within medical circles. A few years ago, a patient was in the operating theatre to have his diseased kidney taken out. Everyone believed it to be the left kidney, except a medical student who said in a hesitant, soft and muffled voice that he thought it was the right kidney. No one paid him any attention and went right ahead to take the left kidney out. It turned out, that was the wrong kidney. The only person who was correct was the medical student. The person who suffered the damage was the patient.
Large organisations are hierarchical by nature. Decisions taken by those on top are rarely questioned by juniors. But true leadership means, the ability to challenge the status quo. The culture of an organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.
During their selection process, Google particularly look out for ‘courage’ in candidates. They prefer to hire people who ask the right questions and are not afraid to be open if they disagree with what is being said, irrespective of who says it.
The only way to improve is to be open. That is how we learn.
When was the last time I kept quiet when in fact I had something to say? When was the last time I didn’t have the patience to listen? What are the dynamics at my work place? Who pays the price for my silence or my inability to listen? Will I have the courage to speak-up the next time? Will I have the courage to listen?
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” – Seneca
Surprisingly her train was on time. Today she was careful. She went to the correct platform. It was 12 noon. There were only a few people around, looking lonely. She boarded a quiet coach and was happy to find her favourite, forward-facing-window seat with a table, waiting for her. The only other person there was a young man sitting by the window opposite, immersed in his phone and lost in a world of his own, between the big black and red headphones planted over his ears. Both his feet, with shoes on, were resting on the seat opposite. Her head rankled aloud and she was filled with such severe disapproval that she nearly turned around and left.
But then she stopped. He was only a kid. In a strange way he reminded her of her son, even though he looked nothing like him. She could speak with him. What was the worst that could happen? She approached him gently and got his attention.
“Please would you mind putting your feet down?”
“What’s your problem?”
“Feel free to disregard what I say. I just wanted to share my perspective with you. The grime under your soles gets transferred on to other people’s clean clothes and children’s hands. It can make people sick. That’s all. Thank you.”
She smiled and backed off. She sat at the seat she had ear-marked for herself, just on the other side, across the width of the coach. From the corner of her eye, she saw both his feet descend to the floor. With a nearly imperceptible smile she continued to pretend to be looking out of the window and he continued to do the same and the world went by…
Simba Muzira, son of Sara Muzira.
Exhibition of Art, Long Gallery, Maudsley Hospital. London.
Simba Muzira. Doing it again.
Spray paint. Street art. Bold statements. Clear expressions. Innocent eyes. Pure soul.
Courage. Suffering. Passion.
Pigeons telling him not to wear his shoes. Pigeons everywhere! No words!
A mother’s tribute to her talented son who died at 32 after living with mental illness for a few years, in and out of the hospital. Her accounts of doing things in his best interest which turned out otherwise. Her heartbreak at having to live away from him when he was too ill to be at home. Her sense of an utter waste of a young life full of promise. Her guilt. Again and again. Her love. Immeasurable.